Design Diary, Part One
Greetings and welcome to the Project Simonsen design diaries.Â We’re hoping to make this an occasional feature where designers of games currently in development talk about their projects, what’s going on with them, and a bit about their creative process.Â Since I work right across the desk from Eric I was the obvious first
victim of contributor to this feature.Â So, welcome!
I started the War Patrol project because I was at a point in my life where I literally had to either start designing a game or go completely insane.Â (Looking back on where it’s got me, sometimes I feel like I split the difference, but that’s another story…)Â I’d worked in biological research ever since graduating from college a few years before and started medical school, but left a few months before when the workload and stress just turned out to be too much for me.Â It was late 2008 and the economy had just finished cratering.
…on a good day you remember to take a shower so you can go wandering around the city
Fortunately, at about that time I was wrapping up playtest work on The Hell of Stalingrad with my friend Steve Cunliffe, another local Philly game designer. Having seen the game come apart and get put back together over the past few months, I had a pretty good idea of how the creative process worked and it was pretty intriguing. I figured that doing a boardgame would be a good way to pass the time (I was right), that it would be a good quick project (I was wrong) and that it would occupy me until I had some more luck in the job search (I was right, but not in the way I planned).
The subject of my first game wasn’t ever really in doubt. Growing up, my Dad had always been a submarine enthusiast, particularly the World War II boats of the U.S. Navy, and I’d eagerly followed in his footsteps.
I’d read books like Silent Victory and War Beneath the Sea, watched movies like Das Boot, and played games like Microprose’s Silent Service series. I’d visited the Submarine Force Museum (about an hour and a half from our home in Connecticut) countless times, peering through preserved World War II periscopes and absorbing the heroes and legends of the service: “Mush” Morton and Wahoo, Howard Gilmore ordering Growler’s crew to leave him on the bridge and save themselves, Richard O’Kane and Tang sinking 24 Japanese ships in less than a year, and Gene Fluckey’s crew on _Barb_ launching a shore raid on Japan to blow up a railroad bridge.
I’d crawled over preserved World War II submarines until I could close my eyes and walk though their compartments. A wargame would be my way of taking that little historical obsession and giving it life.
And so, the madness began.
Continued in Part Two